When people talk about getting a new pet you might think of a kitten or a puppy, but a pet doesn’t have to be young when they join your family. Thousands of older dogs and cats are waiting to be rehomed for one reason or another. Unfortunately people tend to assume that they need to be rehomed because they are “problem pets”, but this simply isn’t the case. As part of our Senior Pet Month here at Feel Good Park I’d like to put some of the fears about adoption to rest as well as letting you in on some of the benefits (of which there are many!)
Many people cite “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” as a reason for wanting to adopt a puppy over a senior dog. Well, whoever came up with that saying has a lot to answer for; not only is it not true, but training is a great way to bond with a pet. In fact, senior dogs tend to be calmer and more mature and are therefore more likely to focus on training. Trainability will depend a little on breed and temperament so, if you’re planning to teach your new pet some new commands, it might be worth giving it a try in the shelter on a visit to see how they take to being trained.
Some people worry that the pet is being rehomed because they did something wrong with their previous owners. In the vast majority of cases this isn’t the case. Reasons for rehoming could be anything from allergies to a death in the family and are rarely the animal’s fault directly. If nothing else, shelters will not let you take an animal home if they feel that they will be too difficult to care for, taking into account physical and behavioural challenges. Animals have their temperament assessed prior to rehoming and won’t be put up for adoption until they are ready. Even if a pet has behaviour or attitude issues they are often easily resolved with the right care and attention. Often anxiety and aggression are not the pet’s fault but are brought on by poor previous ownership.
Senior pets can be overlooked because they aren’t as “cute” as younger puppies and kittens. Senior pets might not have big puppy-dog eyes and their coats might be coarser but they are just as capable of being loving, attentive, affectionate companions. In fact, adult dogs can be easier to bond with as they have an established demeanour and they will be easier to get to know. While they may perk up and become friendlier with you as they start to recognise you as “their human” they are unlikely to have a complete behaviour change as some animals do when they hit puberty. With a senior pet what you see is what you get; they wear their heart on their paws.
When people think of older dogs in rescue centres they might not immediately think of abandoned purebreds. In actual fact there are plenty of rescues dedicated to particular breeds of dog and will usually have a range of ages in their care looking for a home. If you are looking for a particular breed then such centres can be a great way to find the pet you’re looking for without the training demands of a puppy.
There are plenty of advantages to choosing an older pet. They are generally more relaxed and less demanding than a puppy. Plus, they are likely to be housetrained and know basic commands before they come to you. You can also bring your new pet home knowing more about them than you could possibly know about a very young pet; the rescue can give you any medical history as well as behavioural traits and likes and dislikes they may have noticed while the animal was under their care. In addition, many shelters will spay or neuter pets before giving them away, so you can avoid unwanted litters or hormone-related behaviour from day one.
A pet doesn’t have to be young to be affectionate and they don’t need to know you from childhood to love you. It is certainly better to adopt an older dog from a rescue than to buy a puppy from a puppy farm. Many shelters will give you plenty of advice and guidance on adopting an older pet, so if it’s something you are considering, why not go and talk to your local shelter today?